A newly released reported by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured shows that Louisiana has made significant reductions in its number of uninsured children. In fact, the report showed that Louisiana was the state with the greatest improvement. The report, titled "Health Insurance Coverage in America: 2001," was based on federal census estimates compiled through the end of the 2001 calendar year.

Between 1999 and 2001, Louisiana’s percentage of uninsured children dropped from 20.4 percent to 14.4 percent. This six percent reduction was the best among all 50 states. This improvement means that Louisiana moves from a national ranking of third for uninsured children to eighth.

"In almost all instances, improvements in health care indicators come incrementally," said LDH Secretary David W. Hood. "Although we know that we’ve provided more health coverage to more children, the report by the Kaiser Family Foundation is a national endorsement of our efforts."

Hood credits this improvement to the Louisiana Children’s Health Insurance Program, which was created through Act 128 of the 1998 First Extraordinary Session of the Legislature. LaCHIP is a Medicaid program that provides health care coverage to uninsured children up to the age of 19. Since LaCHIP began in 1998, the number of uninsured children in the state has been reduced by more than 261,000. And, since the data in the Kaiser report was compiled, an additional 70,000 Louisiana children have been enrolled in health coverage from the state.

"We’ve moved ahead of Florida, California, Nevada, Oklahoma and Arizona, and pulled almost even with Colorado and Montana, in the percentage of our state’s children who now have health insurance," he said. "By increasing access to primary and preventive health care for our children, we may finally be able to overcome some of the poor health outcomes that have haunted Louisiana for too long now."

Hood notes that DHH’s Medicaid office implemented a grassroots outreach effort that has succeeded in alerting hard-to-reach families about the LaCHIP program.

"Our Medicaid staff has had an unwavering commitment to seek out as many children and families as possible who might be eligible. They understand that people will become healthier once they get coverage," he added. "In addition, it is much less expensive to provide health care coverage than it is to treat someone who puts off seeking care just because they are uninsured."

LDH officials said they are pleased that the Kaiser report was issued during national Cover the Uninsured Week, March 10-16.

"Making improvements in national rankings is incredibly difficult. In fact, most advances are made in increments. So, to improve by six percentage points is extraordinary, especially when all other states are focusing on the same problem," said Ruth Kennedy, deputy director of the Medicaid program. "As we use this week to call attention to the fact that many people remain uninsured in Louisiana, the Kaiser study is especially good news."

In testimony before the House Appropriations Committee earlier this week, LDH presented a plan to legislators that would help parents of LaCHIP children and other working adults obtain health insurance for themselves. Research shows that many workers aren’t insured because they only work part-time, their employers don’t offer insurance or they don’t earn enough to afford premiums. Through this new plan, called LaACCESS, health coverage could be expanded by the state working with private insurance companies to make health insurance more attainable for working adults throughout Louisiana.

To receive a LaCHIP application, call toll-free, 1-877-252-2447 (2LaCHIP), or for general information visit the LDH Web site at http://www.dhh.state.la.us.